By Zin Linn
The Burmese government led by President Thein Sein looks as if paying no attention to its own promises. The President has pledged during the presidential inaugural ceremony that he would mainly work in support of good governance, national reconciliation, poverty alleviation and including a long-lasting peace society. However, the regime is unwilling to honor equal rights and self-determination of the ethnic population.
Without peace and stability, a country cannot build its democracy institution. People cannot practice democratic system in the absence of peace and stability. How much time does the President need to create a national reconciliation which is essential for peaceful Burma? The cost of further delay to end the civil war will be paid in thousands of innocent lives under incompetence of economic development.
According to the Kachin News Group, Kachin Independence Army (KIA) Battalion 6 commander Lt-Col. Nhkum Zau Doi asserted on 7 October that 211 government soldiers have been killed and 36 injured over the past two months during heavy fighting in the Hpakant jade mining district of western Kachin state.
Burmese government armed forces operate quite a lot of aggressive assaults in recent weeks in Kachin and Northern Shan State even though suffering a heavy death toll. Fighting goes on fatally all through Kachin and Northern Shan State in the face of government peacemaking pledge to the United States and the EU. All the battles have occurred in KIO’s territories including some areas where government troops occupied Kachin areas after 1994 ceasefire agreement.
The Kachinland News has reported that KIA’s 15th Battalion under 3rd Brigade fought against Burmese government’s 88th LID near Dum Bau hill on 10 October. But, there were no immediate reports of casualties on either side. Another fierce battle took place on 9 October at Hpakant, Lawng Hkang, an area controlled by KIA’s 6th Battalion under 2nd Brigade.
KIA’s 6th Battalion encountered government army 228th LIR at Lawng Hkang, as said by a local frontline source. Burmese army reportedly fired several rounds of 81mm mortar shells to residential areas and injured some villagers.
Also on 9 October, KIA’s 24th Battalion under 5th Brigade had encountered Burmese army’s 242nd LIR near Ding Ga Yang in Daw Hpum Yang Township. According to KIA source, Burmese army’s artillery unit assisted its infantry units by firing several rounds of 120mm mortar shells during the battle.
On September 7, Burma President Thein Sein met national races affairs ministers from regions and states at the Presidential Palace in Nay-Pyi-Taw. Speaking on the occasion, President said that national races live in the country as blood brothers. Hence, he said, they have the basic rights of citizens stated in the constitution.
Thein Sein also confessed that border regions still failed to sustain development on education, health, transportation, and the economy due to fragile stability and the problems with rule of law. This has resulted conflicts with ethnic armed groups, he acknowledged. He has been making efforts to end long-lasting armed conflicts so as to restore peace. Thein Sein emphasized that there has been progress in making peace with the ethnic armed-groups. However, he also confessed the failure of peace talks with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).
However, authorities of quasi-civilian government repeatedly say that skirmishing still comes about in Kachin areas because of mix-up positions of both armed units and close proximity between the two sides in frontline areas. Actually, the government armed forces have violated the 1994 ceasefire agreement and invaded into Kachin controlled areas. Then, the government deployed more infantry units in Kachin territory and turn down to pull out even though constant calls from KIO and local residents.
The Kachin Independent Organization has also refused to accept the government’s three-step plan – first to make ceasefire at state level talks, second to establish a Kachin ethnic political party and third the ethnic party has to put forward the ethnic questions to the parliamentary assembly where the problems have to solve out in line with the 2008 constitution.
KIO Brigadier General Gun Maw has told the media occasionally that the KIO prefers its own three-step process — the first step would be an agreement on the distribution of troops and their locations; second step would be an all-inclusive discussion similar to the Panglong Conference, which would involve all ethnic leaders and the government in order to work out long-standing political disagreements; the third and final stage would be to enforce the agreement in whatever structure is fitting.
To sum up, the first thing Thein Sein government ought to do is to withdraw its armed forces up to positions of the 1994 ceasefire agreement. Then, to show its generosity and peace-loving approach, the government should stop fighting unilaterally. The most important duty of government is to protect its ethnic Kachin citizens equally and it needs to release all Kachin ethnic prisoners who are in prison on suspicion of helping the KIO.
If the government’s priority is to exploit the natural resources together with Chinese companies, the war in Kachin state may not stop easily within a short time. Then, the President’s promise — good governance, national reconciliation and poverty alleviation — is just a sham to the people.